Sanders visits Puerto Rico, meets with governor and San Juan mayor
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Sen. Bernie SandersBernie SandersPoll: 73 percent of Democratic voters would consider voting for Biden in the 2024 primary Overnight Defense: US launches another airstrike in Somalia | Amendment to expand Pentagon recusal period added to NDAA | No. 2 State Dept. official to lead nuclear talks with Russia US launches second Somalia strike in week MORE (I-Vt.) visited the storm-swept territory of Puerto Rico on Friday, where he met with Gov. Ricardo Rosselló and other elected officials to discuss plans to rebuild the island in the aftermath of Hurricane Maria.

"The reason I am here today is to listen, and to hear from the people of Puerto Rico about how we address the immediate set of crises that the island faces short-term," Sanders said in a press conference with San Juan Mayor Carmen Yulín Cruz, pointing to the many residents still without access to basic necessities.

Many Puerto Ricans remain without electricity and clean water nearly one month after the island lost power following Hurricane Maria. Rosselló announced on Oct. 16 that 72 percent of islanders had clean water, while 75 percent were reported to be without reliable electricity.


Sanders pointed to upcoming debate in Congress on a bill to provide more recovery funds for U.S. states and territories affected by a series of massive hurricanes this summer, which he said "will include substantially more money for Puerto Rico, for Florida, for Texas and for the the Virgin Islands." 

President Trump signed a $36.5 billion disaster relief package on Thursday that was designed to aid victims of a string of devastating hurricanes and wildfires.

Sanders called on Friday for long-term development of Puerto Rico, putting in place storm-resistant housing and structures and a sturdy energy grid that makes use of the island's ample renewable resources.

Cruz and other local officials have been critical of the federal government's response efforts on the island, amid frustrations over delays on aid and valuable supplies due to bureaucratic red tape.

Cruz engaged President Trump in a series of back-and-forth insults after the hurricane hit, most recently saying that the president lives in a "fantasy world" over his self-given grade of a 10 out of 10 on the government's response.

Sanders's trip Friday came on the opening of the Women's Convention in Detroit, where he was originally slated to speak. The 2016 Democratic presidential candidate backed out of the speaking event amid criticism that his opening of the conference would be inappropriate.

"Given the emergency situation in Puerto Rico, I will be traveling there to visit with San Juan Mayor Carmen Yulín Cruz and other officials to determine the best way forward," Sanders said in a statement earlier this month apologizing to the organizers of the convention. 

Sanders posted several pictures to Twitter of his visit to Puerto Rico on Friday, meeting with locals and surveying the damage from the massive hurricane.